Facing flak both from allies like the Trinamool Congress and the DMK as well as the opposition for hiking petrol price, the Congress on Thursday said the government should find a way to reduce the common man's burden.
“The petrol price hike has burdened the common man. We hope the government will find a way to reduce this burden keeping in mind the volatile global financial situation,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.
“It was not a political decision," he stressed.
Indian oil marketing companies on Wednesday announced the sharpest ever hike in petrol price by Rs. 6.28 per litre plus state taxes, inviting strong reactions from the people and political parties.
Noting that some states have reduced local taxes to provide some relief to the petrol users, Tewari said a solution involving the central government, the states and the oil companies should be found.
He said after the National Democratic Alliance government dismantled the administered price mechanism, oil companies now decide on the petrol prices.
“The international price of crude oil is high and there is pressure on the rupee,” said Tewari.
"The party is hopeful that some kind of a modus vivendi involving the Central government, state government and the oil companies will be arrived at. We are hopeful that the government would find a way out so that some of this burden is eased which would provide relief to the common man," Congress spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters in New Delhi.
Tewari insisted that the petrol price hike was not a political decision or one taken by the government as after dismantling of the administered price mechanism (APM), the responsibility of fixing oil prices strictly lay with the oil marketing companies (OMCs).
He said that the party, however, notwithstanding the facts and economic realities "is extremely sensitive to the burden put on the common man".
The Congress leader attacked the BJP over the issue reminding that fuel prices were hiked more than 30 times during the NDA rule.
"People who want to politicise every issue, should look within. The process to dismantle the APM was initiated by the NDA," Tewari said.
However, a party leader acknowledged that the petrol price hike was "indeed hefty".
In one of the steepest hikes ever, OMCs hiked petrol prices by over Rs. 7.50 per litre on Wednesday.
Hike fulled protests
Earlier today, hike in petrol prices fuelled protests in several parts of the country, as Opposition NDA and the Left gave a call for a nation-wide bandh on May 31, dubbing the price increase a "savage attack" on the people.
In an action plan where the Left and the right will come together to demand a rollback of the "anti-people" decision, the BJP-led NDA gave a 'Bharat Bandh' call for May 31 while Left parties will observe the day as 'All India Protest Day' that will include strikes, picketing, rasta roko and rallies against the hike.
A dawn-to dusk hartal called separately by LDF and BJP in Kerala partially affected normal life across the state. Protests were also reported at some places in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.
The announcement for the Bharat Bandh, which was also called in protest against the rise in prices of essential commodities, was made both by senior BJP leader LK Advani and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav in their capacity as NDA's acting chairman and convenor respectively.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said that after consultation with all the allies Advani on behalf of the NDA has announced that the opposition alliance will organise a bandh across the country in the wake of the "enormous" hike of petrol prices and the deep sense of anger among people.
The BJP appealed to the people to make the bandh a great success with Advani saying the hike is an "anti-people move" by the government.
Rejecting Government's argument that the hike has been effected by petroleum companies as the pricing of petrol stands deregulated, Yadav said, "This is an eyewash...
We (NDA) are going to observe a Bharat Bandh on May 31." Demanding a roll back, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray said a Bharat bandh is "acceptable" to the party.
Reports from different districts in Kerala said shops remained closed in cities and towns and private buses were largely off the roads. Private vehicles are plying and no violence has been reported from anywhere, police said.
Opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh including Telugu Desam, CPM and CPI and BJP staged protests in Vijayawada city and in towns in Krishna district.
In Jammu, the city's BJP unit led by district president Rajesh Gupta took out a protest march riding on the horse cart. Protests were also reported in Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Kanpur and Gurgaon.